129 & 130, Peace Corps Thailand Magazine Staff
This quarter Peace Corps Thailand Magazine welcomed 22 new volunteers onto our staff. We asked everyone to respond to our writing prompt for this quarter, “Home is…” as a way to introduce our new team.
Celete Kato, 129 TESS
Home is not a physical place, person, or object, but rather, a collection of memories and experiences. Home is shared meals, tender words, joyful laughter, heartbreaking sorrow, awkward encounters, and unforgettable moments that imprint on you forever. Home is an emotion; a feeling that is all-encompassing, ever-changing, and always wrapped in love.
Kara Anthony, 130 TESS
Ruhamaiah Bradley, 130 TESS
Liberating. A place where you are free to be yourself. Where you connect with others like you. Home is a place where I can be myself in its entirety.
Daylisha and Gabe Reid, 130 YinD and TESS
Theresa Kozelka, 129 YinD
Home is …
Having the confidence to truly be yourself.
Zari Havercome, 130 YinD
This video showcases some of the homes at my site and some quotes from literary folks that have shaped me in some way. I end the clip with an honorary mention of my friend, Barbara, that has lost a strongly fought war with cancer. She has moved into a new home metaphysically and she will truly be missed. This video has been instrumental in my coping.
For anyone that has experienced a loss while abroad in service, remember that you have support in country. Peer Support and Diversity Network, local/in country/in the USA friends and family members, Peace Corps Staff, or Peace Corps Medical Officers. Allow yourself to grieve and do something that makes you happy. You must take care of yourself before you can take care of others.
Special thanks to all of those people that fit those categories that shower me in love and support. My condolences to her family.
Christalynn Hamer, 130 TESS
Home is a bashful smile on a school day. I live in the light of moments when a toothless grin reminds me to give joy a chance to work its magic.
Home is in the everyday, the normal, the same ole same ole because I need that sometimes to stay grounded.
Home is a homemade meal that feeds my belly and my soul.
Home is a hand in mine and a hug on my hip.
Home is home, but here, too, I’ve found love.
Anna McGillicuddy, 129 YinD
“Mike-Gun” Marano, 129 TESS
Home is watching an apprehensive 1-year-old, crawling around in great suspicion of you, grow into a rambunctious 2-year-old, greeting you through every doorway you pass with a huge smile, clapping hands, and screaming chorus of, “Gun, Gun, Gun!”
Alex Cotrufello, 129 YinD
Audrey Ardine, 129 TESS
Home is the view from my front door, the peace I feel when I take a minute or two to sit on my steps and take it all in. It’s the friendly, familiar faces that I see on a daily basis. It’s the meals and snacks that my host mother makes for me. It’s being treated as a daughter, a part of the family. It’s the hectic journey over the river and through “monkey mountain” village. And all the children who scream, “Kru Audee!” as I pass by. Home is the place I miss whenever I’ve been away for a few days.
McKenzie Paterson, 129 TESS
Home is where you can rip off your suffocating and sweat-drenched bra and have a pantless dance party because every day is deserving of a little Risky Business-esque celebration and whimsical folly.
Nhi Le, 130 TESS
Home is where you’re most comfortable and surrounded by the people who love and support you. People who accept you wholly for who you are.
Laura Hyde, 130 YinD
Relationships being cultivated
Not always where I feel most comfortable
But where I choose to plant roots and grow
Skyler Matthias, 130 YinD
Megan Cindric, 129 YinD
Home is where your yaii is.
Berline Exume, 130 TESS
Home is wherever peace resides.
Storytime: Last week, after spending a weekend in Bangkok to nurture my friendships with fellow volunteers, I headed home. I was heading home to a place that just a few months prior I was struggling to readjust to. I was heading home to a place where I was an anomaly. I was heading home to a place that is set apart from what Thailand is “known” to be. Yet and still, it was now what I called home. I finally made it to my island after much hassle and bargaining with the drivers at the bus station who refused to believe that I’m a teacher here and insisted on charging me an outrageous price for a 10 minute ride (that’s another story for another time) but yeah I made it. Imagine my disbelief when I walked into my room, my space, my humble abode, my place of comfort, etc. and it was gone. My room, unbeknownst to me had been cut in half, literally. A wall that separated my room from a closet like space was torn down, and built back up and placed in a position that made my room much smaller than it had been originally. Without hesitation, I broke down. I was sensing rage, hurt, confusion, and loss all at once. I don’t have much here, my room and what it holds is pretty much all I have. Everything in my room had been displaced without my knowledge, I felt very violated. A few of my most treasured items had been ruined during the reconstruction of this room. One of those items is a painting my little sister created for me as gift upon my departure. I called my counterpart right away and told her as straightforward as I could, “I want to leave this house, now. I no longer want to live here.” She came over as fast as she could from the school to both help me figure out what happened, and comfort me because the tears were not stopping. I felt small, I felt like my voice, my opinion, didn’t matter, and that is hard. Feeling insignificant in your town/at school is one thing, but to feel that where you lay your head – that’s tough. We went over to the school and talked to one of the head teachers and he assured me that it was one big mistake and, oh yeah, there wasn’t anywhere for me to go so I was stuck. I remained at school for the remainder of the day trying my best to remain composed. Which looked like me locking myself in my classroom so my kids wouldn’t see me cry or break down. I did the day as best as I could. The minute I walked up to the door of my host family’s house all those feelings from the morning came rushing back. I made it upstairs to my room, and plopped my body on my bed, crawled into a ball, and starting sobbing uncontrollably. At a point, I tried so hard to stop, but the calm had yet to arrive. This did not feel like home. I stayed in my room that evening, and my host mom came to me and well, we spoke. Uh, more like I cried a lot and she apologized then she cried, then we hugged then we made a promise that I will not disclose because I can’t remember it. By the next day Peace Corps staff had come for my site visit and we figured it all out together.
Since then I have cleaned up my “new” room, reorganized everything to my liking, and accepted that “what is done, is done.” It wasn’t until about two days ago, that I looked around and felt more at home than I had ever felt since being here at this site. My room is small, but it’s cozy, it’s warm, it’s for me. After that incident, me and my host family had some really good conversations about how to best communicate with me moving forward and life here has been on the up and up. I have an immense sense of peace here and that for me is a quality of home. The day that I came and saw that my room was in shambles, my peace was not in place, therefore my sanity was not in place. Fortunately, I have a great support system both here and at home who helped me get though and find the beauty in all that isn’t always so beautiful. I can now sit back and appreciate the incident because it increased the connectivity I have to my site. My teachers were all in on what occurred and provided words of comfort, my paw aw (principal) made sure to check in with me every 30 seconds (seriously), and my amazing counterparts went above and beyond to support me in whatever way they could. The lesson that I took away is, what is for me, is for ME, and this is MY home.
Carly Allard, 129 YinD
Where coffee smells and tastes just right
Where food’s so good I always want another bite
Where I sing and dance like a damn fool
Where we play UNO and bend every rule
Where movies and soccer games bring us together
Where we admire thunderstorms on nights of bad weather
Where my head and heart are most at rest
Where I recharge so I can be my best
Where I laugh and love and sometimes cry
Where our bonds have become the strongest tie
Where they can fully see just who I’m meant to be
That’s exactly what home is to me.
Kayla McCabe, 129 YinD
Home is the spaces where I have put in extra effort in order to feel comfortable. There may be photos on the wall, friends waiting outside, or a man behind a counter who knows my regular lunch order. A home can range in size – anywhere from a room to a neighborhood to a country. This is a place where I know I can always return and feel a sense of familiarity and belonging.
Catherine Nightengale, 129 YinD
Home is where your loved ones are. I’m lucky to have two.
Phillip Hendrix, 130 TESS
Home is where I can take my mask off
Where I feel understood
Where I talk about myself for as long as I need to
When someone asks the right question
When I find my spirit lifted
Where I can do that thing that’s embarrassing for other people to see
When I try to make sense of the day
Home is my mom, my mae
When she tells me that I look funny when I’m stressed out
When she teaches me to open a pomelo for the third time
She makes me feel safe
She makes me feel like I’m not alone
Home is that old friend
She makes me laugh, she makes me think, she’s interested
Home is that new friend
She’s an inspiration, she’s honest, she’s helpful
Home is my real mom
How I can feel how happy she is to hear from me
Home is that student who waits just outside my classroom window
So she can greet me when I open it
Home is in the cracks in my driveway
The skinny palm tree, the awkward garage
The pink blanket, the blue fan
The 4 walls and padlock keeping everyone else out
And that they let me play guitar when they’re sleeping
Ashley Resurreccion, 130 TESS
Halli Benson, 130 TESS
Home is… where the heart is. I know it’s a cliche, but hear me out. When I was 18, my dad got a job in LA. My parents left my hometown and downsized resulting in a huge upheaval of our entire material lives. I was devastated that we were losing our “home”, and I would no longer have a house in my hometown. It was a tough but necessary shift to understanding that home is not a house or where your house is, but it’s where your heart is and it can be in multiple places. Since I’ve moved to Thailand, I have continued to stretch my flexibility with the concept of home when moving in with host families and recently moving into my own rental house. But still my definition holds strong. Home is where my heart is, where I can show my true heart and be comfortable with myself, where I can sit in my emotions without any guilt or shame. My home is with my heart in multiple places during my service, with my family and friends across the US, with my host Mom in Don Chedi. But I am settling into a this home, and my heart is happy here.
Andrea Aribe, 130 YinD
Home is ever-changing
It moves from one place to another
Carrying a suitcase of beliefs
Values, morals, and principles
On which to live upon
It can take on many forms
A creative space, a place of prayer
A classroom, a playground
The residence of our labors
Or where we lay asleep or wide awake
Traveling between letdown and triumph
It follows signs to nowhere and anywhere
Makes pit stops at our fears and goals
Takes detours, overcomes roadblocks
And loses its way
In constant renovation
We build and tear down its walls
Fill cracks in the foundation
Pull and plant roots
Make and repair mistakes
And when natural disasters occur
The roof leaks of “what ifs”
Skeletons in our closets exit
And shit inevitably hits the fan
We pick up the pieces and start over
Sometimes, we sneak out its windows
Climb the fire escape and runaway
Set out on new ventures and trust
There is always a key under the mat
When we find our way back
Once safe and sound
Remember to park your heart
Let it be steady, skip a beat
Break in two and heal itself
Feel whole, full, and flutter again
Run into the arms of those waiting
Who accept you without apologies
Share stories of this journey so far
Photos of the good and bad
And the dreams had in between
Hop in the shower and sing of memories
Dance through life in the hallways
Love underneath bedsheets
Free curtains, open windows
And let the light in
Whether home is on top of a mountain or rock bottom
On the streets, by the trees, at sea, or in the clouds
Amongst friends and family
In someone’s arms or comfort in your skin
Home is ever-changing
Rae Richards, 129 TESS
Ali Talwar, 130 TESS
When my cohort first arrived in Thailand, we were informed we would never truly feel at home again. I have only been here 5 months and that this is a concept I already identify with. Although, I realized it is because home has always just been an idealized concept that has never had a physical location to me. Growing up as a “Navy Brat” and moving every two years meant my home base was ever changing. It’s the reason I dread answering everyone’s first question of “where are you from?”, because I never have a simple answer. Thus, for the longest time home was where my heart was (for lack of a better cliché). To me this saying meant that I was “at home” when I was with my family. But as I’ve grown older, I’ve come to understand that I left pieces of my heart in a multitude of places, in the hands of incredible friends as well as family.
Now that I have moved across the world to Thailand, I have been graced with two host families in entirely different places, adding even more confusion to the concept of home in my head. Then, on top of all that, I’ve made AMAZING, lifelong friends with my fellow PCVs. Only to be separated from each other throughout this surprisingly, large country. So essentially, I have no idea where “home is” or if I will ever feel wholly at home again. I do however know that there are people all over this vast world that hold pieces of my heart with them and that is an incredible feeling!
Larissa Delgado, 130 YinD
When I think of home, I find my mind,
Drifting to different places and moments in time,
Home is laying on a hammock with my cousins in Brazil,
But home is also sitting by my site’s river, watching the rain make it still,
Home was strolls down Istanbul streets, drinks of tea, and beautiful ferry rides,
Home was late nights in New York with action on every side,
And home was also the quiet and early night walks in New York parks,
And at the foot of the water stare down the skyscraper’s lights in the dark,
Now home is bike rides with landscapes in place of skylines,
With far-off mountains instead of far-off buildings,
Home was talking with my sweet mother, interesting sister, funny father,
It was finding Brazilian culture in our Queens community,
Now home is consoling oneself with where two cultures meet,
Home was meeting nature and God quietly,
With my back against the clay of a cool American cave,
And it was meeting nature and God loudly,
Rock-climbing, canyoneering, and shaking hands with fears,
I hope my home can still let me engage with them a little here,
Home was laying on the rocks by the bosphorus with a hot cinnamon drink,
Now home is still near water but with far too much time to think,
Home was warm cuddles with my dog and going to comedy clubs for a blast,
Now home is genuine hugs with my kids, and making THEM laugh,
It is tire-swinging with them and watching their faces elate,
It’s being close to two Thai friends at site that can actually relate,
But I think back and remember,
And home was warm invites into homes of friends in Rio and swimming in the sea,
Playing pool, bread and butter, and talking over coffee,
Then coconut water, and buying cheese on a stick at the beach,
Now home is swimming with the kids at the river, and getting excited for when volunteers meet,
Home was visiting dear friends in different ‘rats’ (states in Thai),
Now home is visiting volunteer friends in many ‘jangwats’ (province in Thai),
Home was being able to eat any food in the city’s prime,
Now it’s cooking that food and being transported in time,
To all of my homes, in all of their places,
With all of the smells, and tastes, and faces,
And all of the shared moments collected carefully,
Into my thoughts, into my memory.
Andrey Shumshurin, 130 TESS
Sitting on the Toilet in Thailand, Listening to Dialect.
Some great philosopher once said that home
Is where the toilet is. You wonder though
If he had ever had to sit and squat
while mom and dad and little bro
talked in rising tones outside the door,
if a red-striped toad has ever crouched
in the corner and gave him the stink eye—
mosquitoes vulturing around your feet,
half numb from the cold floor.
And now you hear a word you think you understand,
“dhatlat,” which “fades” to “lat” to “t” to nothing
but puffs of sound grazing your little ears
and slipping down the hole, as if reality could
slip too, along with you, one foot falling in,
then another, until you were gone.
Eventually, your mother would come in,
call out your name, once, maybe twice,
then splash some water down the hole,
(as is customary), wash her hands, and continue her day.
But the toilet is just a hole where poop goes,
and the toad hops away and jumps into the drain,
and the mosquitoes scatter after you slap one
against your leg and leave a smudge,
and your host family makes no sounds now,
but they are still in the kitchen.
And somehow, the quiet and the cold
calm your nerves, and you sit on a toilet
in Thailand and listen to your family’s smooth silence.
Poonam Benakatti, 130 YinD
I hung up feeling annoyed. Why does she have to get upset over such weightless conversation? My home, after all, was in downtown Dallas and no longer the suburbs where I navigated my childhood. “Your home will always be where I raised you”. How did I do it again? How did I carelessly cut my mother with my words? It’s never intentional, but time and time again I seemed to make her uneasy by expressing loyalty to my home. But that was then.
“Perhaps home is not a place but simply an irrevocable condition”
– James Baldwin, Giovanni’s Room
I am quickly approaching my 6 month marker in Thailand and I again refer to this new place as my home. My mom’s voice wavers a bit less when I give her the grand videochat house-tour. I don’t know that I’ve ever felt more pride in my home than I do now. Let me be transparent, I am a very loyal being. I carry deep seated pride for most everything I participate in or has impacted my life. This is inclusive to college, childhood friendships, Texas, girl scouts, and the list could go on. But what about this new home in Thailand has me calling it “home” so quickly? How am I so loyal to this village after only being here 6 months? Is it the fact that, I had to build the aura that depicts a home myself? Could it be the pride that consumes me after convincing myself it’s ok to eat ant eggs on a weekly basis? Maybe it’s that my neighbors now tell me the juicy neighborhood gossip- who is dating who, who’s food has been lacking at the market this week, which funerals are in the next few days, etc. Maybe it’s that I finally got the ice cream man’s Line contact!
“Happiness is home and home is not a house- home is a mythological conceit. It is a state of mind. A place of communion and unconditional love. It is where, when you cross its threshold, you finally feel at peace.”
I’m giving yet another grand videochat house tour to a friend back home. In my room is a map of Texas, a Texas bandana and over fifteen different letters that friends back home have written me after only 3 months at site. I desperately tried to bring my old home with me, didn’t I? After hanging up I feel, perhaps, icky. I spend such little time in my concrete headquarters. My efforts to take Texas with me, are clearly over zealous. I gave so much of myself to my old home, and it in return is rooted so deeply in my heart. But that was then.
I showed her my house, but what I really wanted was for her to meet my neighbors. I wanted her to try geng-no-mai (bamboo dish) and eat sticky rice with her hands. It’s ironic that I toured my physical house. I spend minimal time here, and have the bare necessities. What a shallow perspective. She needs to visit. She needs to drop her bags at my house, and bike around the community. That’s the true grand videochat. This village is home.
I stare at my Thai map. It’s the places and the people that I give a little bit of myself to everyday. Being a Peace Corps volunteer, I give myself to every child that peaks into my gate, every yai that I stop to chat with on my route home, and every situation that fumbles and humbles me. In return each of these interactions gives something back to me. I sprinkle my rains, and am splashed back. I came here to serve, but am quickly realizing that this home of mine will give me more than I could ever give back.
Thailand is my home now, and when I make a new one in 21 months, I will carry this one with me. I will carry it as I carry my parents, and my friends that made Texas my home. But, hopefully the next time, I can get the grand videochat tour correct the first time.
Natalie Garro, 129 TESS
I’m in a weird headspace right now. Honestly, I think part of it is my literal headspace – on account of my eyeballs are still adjusting to my sweet new specs – but everything has felt very… blurry… lately (and I mean that in a non-literal way, on account of my sweet new specs).
I think this fog, this feeling of detachment, this liminal space – the constant feeling of floating, being untethered – is my body’s physical reaction to existing as a partial human for the last year and a half.
Try as I might, I am still unable to fully communicate my persona – my speech patterns, my humor, my moral convictions – adequately in Thai. I can hold a conversation, but there is a significant part of me that is always missing as sentences, proclamations, questions tumble from my mouth – slightly less clumsily than before, but still through grammar errors, incorrect tones, and scrambled sentence structure. I feel as a person much the way I must sound attempting to convey my most complex thoughts in my simple Thai: muddled.
So this is the first offering I give you: home is the place where I am fully myself. These days, I feel like a turtle, carrying around this home of habits, beliefs, and bad jokes, unable to fully emerge into the world; I am trapped peeking out into a world partially obscured behind the curve of my shell, my Self, hidden in much the same way.
Home is 7PM living room banter over beers with my dad and my brother. Home is coming home to a fresh pile of laundry when depression leaves me without any clean clothes to wear to work. Home is all-night conversations with my best friends: binging on Rachel’s baking, drinking separate bottles of wine because we have different taste (not that we need a reason). Home is the people who bought me a bracelet engraved with the geographical coordinates of the mountain top where I scattered my mother’s ashes. Home is running into a friend almost everywhere I go, if for no other reason than I’ve made friends of the staff in all the places I used to frequent.
Home is the places I used to frequent. The dusty mountain backroads where I’d kick it into 4-wheel, blasting country, bare feet and cut off jean shorts. The long road to Utah – I-70 – hours in cruise control, laughing with the people I love most. The shady canyons, wandering through their twisting passages, sleeping under the stars. The milkshake at my favorite cafe that magically melts away malaise. The yoga instructor who never asks questions, but always made me feel safe and welcome. The sassy children in my Sunday morning yoga class. The regulars who always greeted me with hugs at the bar where I used bartend on weekends. The family of weirdos who immediately embraced me from my first visit to the dojo. My poetry community – their gentle affirmations of our shared humanity. Home was that stage, only because that was the place I felt most seen.
And I’m in a weird headspace, because no one has seen me that way for over a year and a half. But also, someone asks me almost every day if I’m homesick or if I’ve eaten yet. No one yells “farang” (foreigner) at me anymore – everyone in my community knows my name. Sometimes, I come home to my landlady baking in my living room. Home is here, because Pii (big sister) Om from the coffee cart knows my favorite drink (ice-blended hot cocoa) without asking, and she always gives me extra boba. Home is here, because sometimes my neighbors stop by to drop off kanom (sweets) just because. Home is here, because the yai (grandmother) at the weekly market is still determined to find me a Thai husband, and she gives me free vegetables every week. Home is here, because the song-taew (bus) drivers honk in greeting whenever they see me on the street. Home is here, because Pii Noi at the convenience store asks me how my cat is doing.
Home is the sprawling farmland that stretches around us for miles and miles. The mountains looming tall, their jagged silhouette cradling the setting sun. The brightly-painted buildings, like fireworks against the sea of green leaves and red soil. Home is my little Thai bachelorette pad, the accents I’ve added to make the space mine. Home is the fact that this is still my home despite the constant cleaning of frog and lizard poo. Home is the cheers and salutations and inquiries of “Where are you going?” that echo through every run, every bike ride. Home is my favorite restaurant down the street where they make the pad-sii-eew special for me with extra veggies, since I don’t eat meat. Home is the three bags of mangos I received for my birthday. Home is the other volunteers I call on the bad days, and good days, and days when I need someone to understand why I cried over a pizza ad.
But mostly… home is my students. Home is the way they pull me from that liminal space, back to earth. Home is their brilliant smiles, the way they crowd the classroom door and beg to come in early, the way they play in my office when their classes are cancelled. Home is our good days and bad days and how neither changes the absoluteness of my love for them. Home is my counterpart, and the way she laughs with our kiddos. Home is the tight embrace of their gangly arms.
Home is in the nostalgia of missing everything and everyone I left behind – Colorado is still home. It is full of people and places that are part of who I am. But more and more everyday, I realize, home is also Thailand… Nakhon Sawan… Khoa Chon Kan. Home is in the piercing sadness I feel when I imagine saying my final goodbyes to this place one day, is in the way that sadness wells up inside me, threatens to spill from my eyes.
Home is not one place anymore. Even on the hard days, my life here feels as essential to me as my life in Colorado. When I leave Thailand someday, I will be homesick for Pii Om’s cocoa. I will be homesick for games with my kids. I will be homesick for bike rides over to my neighbor’s house. (I will not be homesick for the lizard and frog poo.)
I’m in a weird headspace right now, and maybe it’s my body’s physical reaction to untethering itself to one notion of “home.”